Even following their first playoff season in eight years, the New York Knicks still walk into the 2021 NBA Draft as a team to watch.
They have both their own first-round pick at 19th overall, and the Dallas Mavericks at 21st overall, by way of the infamous Kristaps Porzingis deal in 2019.
Point guard and wing players headline the Knicks’ positions of need, and with two first-round picks, they’ll have a number of avenues to address either one or both roster slots on draft night.
But one name has started to gain traction in being linked with New York after the NBA’s Draft Combine: University of Connecticut guard James Bouknight.
A number of mock drafts have him going to the New York Knicks at 19th overall.
For Leon Rose and the front office, it’d be a home run selection.
With the 19th Overall Pick…
In his latest mock draft for The Ringer, Kevin O’Connor mocked the entire first round following Tuesday night’s Draft Lottery, which saw the Detroit Pistons land the first overall pick.
When it came to the New York Knicks at 19th overall, he went with sophomore guard James Bouknight:
If there’s one thing Tom Thibodeau did wrong this season, it was sticking with Elfrid Payton for too long in the playoffs. The Knicks need to find another guard, and Bouknight has the skill set to play right away. As time passes, Bouknight could develop into someone who could run the offense.
The 20-year old averaged 18.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.1 steals per game for a Huskies team that went 15-8 last season, but flamed out in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
O’Connor has Bouknight ranked 21st on his big board, calling him a “spark-plug scorer whose silky ballhandling and competitive edge are tailor-made for the pros,” with “shades of Donovan Mitchell, CJ McCollum, and Jordan Clarkson.”
Bouknight Meets with Knicks at Combine
With the 2021 NBA Draft only a month away, team front offices and prospects are in Chicago for the Draft Combine this week, including James Bouknight and the New York Knicks front office.
The two sides had a good meeting, according to the 20-year old guard, who spoke to reporters on Thursday.
Bouknight says (via the New York Post) playing at Madison Square Garden would be a dream come true:
Being from New York, playing basketball growing up in New York, playing at the Garden, it would be a dream come true. I don’t even know how to explain that feeling. Going to New York would be fun — hit everyone up I grew up with. That would be like an accomplishment for me. I definitely told them I’m from New York. They kind of already knew.
He thinks there’s a fit with the Knicks, given his scoring ability, and what he considered underrated playmaking:
I feel like the Knicks fit would be great — just another guard you can give the ball and ask him to get a basket. I really feel my playmaking ability is underrated. I feel going to a team where I can showcase that part of my game, I feel I can do that for the Knicks.
New York is bound to bring new faces into the point guard rotation this summer, with all of Derrick Rose, Elfrid Payton, and Frank Ntilikina headed for free agency.
They’ve been tied to a number of names in free agency like Kyle Lowry and Lonzo Ball, but looking for a capable playmaker in the draft, whether at the point guard position or not, should be a priority.